Blacktown City continued its impressive second half of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s season with a hard fought 1-0 victory over the Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw on Saturday.
Jak O’Brien, the club’s leading marksman, was the hero for City scoring the only goal of the match, his 16th of the year midway through the half that gifted Mark Crittenden’s men all three points and their sixth successive victory.
The loss of Mitch Stamatellis, so pivotal for the Sharks’ this season in the Centre-Back pairing alongside Nathan Grimaldi, during the week due to a training ground injury was evident in a reshuffled backline
It was the home side who started brightly, Fumoto Kamada employing all the tricks down the left flank, but were soon stifled by a buoyant City side working their way into the match and so adept at drawing the opposition out and hitting on the break.
Travis Major, so dangerous when given half a yard to work in, fired goalward in the 16’ minute that had ‘keeper Marko Bulic sprawling but Chris Lindsay came to his defence to get a foot in and clear the danger.
Grant Lynch was next to show for the visitors however his tame looping shot was straight into the grateful arms of Bulic but once again space down the left for Blacktown was evident and would need addressing.
Hamish Lamberton replied when the ball fortuitously landed at his feet but the shot was blocked away for a corner as the striker waited for the ball to drop allowing the City defence to intercept.
After terrific interchange play between Mario Shabow, Mendy and Lynch, it was Shabow who dinked a teasing ball into the area for a delicate touch from Jak O’Brien to give the visitors the lead in a super passage of play. It had been coming but it came in great style.
A well taken free-kick, that saw Grimaldi in the book for the foul, this time through Ignacio Corral, skidded through a packed Sharks defence for Bulic to take cleanly.
Alex Brown replaced Antonis Martis after a sickening collision, leaving the player prostrate on the ground for several moments, brought an early end to the evening for Sharks’ midfielder.
Tyren Burnie felt he was about to double the lead late on in the half with a powerful header that Bulic somehow managed to push away from danger in athletic fashion to keep Sutherland just the one goal down at the break in a tightly contest match.
The second-half started as the first with Sutherland on the front foot culminating with Tristan Prendergast tipping over a tipping over Kamada’s dipping shot from the edge of the area to keep his side’s lead intact. It was an improvement from the home side and a positive response to the City threat.
Sutherland were still in the game but squandered the opportunities they were able to muster against a very well drilled Blacktown backline who, expectedly, held their nerve.
Lynch was often found out on the left wing or loitering with intent in and around the Sharks’ box to great effect and posing more than a few problems for the beleaguered home side.
City hit the crossbar from a corner into a crowded penalty area that would have settled the points beyond any doubt however, Sutherland clung on and desperately searched for the leveller although a lofted cross into the area was met by Levi Scurugia who narrowly volleyed wide of the upright.
A flurry of late substitutions from both couldn’t alter the scoreline leaving City Coach, Mark Crittenden, to remark after the whistle.
“I definitely felt we could have had one or two more goals in the first-half,” he said.
“We totally dominated the first period and they came out on the front foot after the break and had a bit more of a go and squeezed a bit higher up the pitch.
“They had the one chance that Trist (Prendergast) tipped around the post but they didn’t really create a lot of stuff that caused us too many difficulties.
“I felt we were a bit messy in the second-half but credit to them but at the end of the day you come here and leave with the points, whether it’s one, two or ten goals, it’s still three points and a hard fought win today.
“Sometimes you have to grind out a result, that’s what makes a good team and today we did that so pleased with the result.”
While Sharks coach Panni Nikas was upbeat with his troops despite the result.
“The way we conducted ourselves in the second-half, and maybe the last 10-minutes of the first, was the way we wanted to start the game,” he commented.
“We changed a few things at the break and the response was there to see, particularly after a couple of players were injured during the week, and I think we were positive and I cannot fault the effort and commitment of the boys.
“It was a positive performance and I’m proud of the boys but obviously not happy with the result as I don’t like losing games of course.
“The attitude, effort and attitude I know will stand us in good stead for the remaining fixtures of this season and we’re sticking to the principles we set out at the start of the campaign and are building on those from week-to-week.”
Sutherland Sharks 0
Blacktown City 1 (Jak O’Brien 25’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday 1st July, 2023
Referee: Danny Horstead
Assistants: Lance Greenshields and Joshua Kermond
Fourth: Ethan Zvargulis
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Marko Bulic, 2 Takahide Umebachi, 5. Jesse Photi, 7. Jay McGowan (32 Levi Scurugia 81’), 9. Hamish Lamberton (3. Jordan Roberts 61’), 10. Antonis Martis (8. Alex Brown 36’), 11. Fumoto Kamada, 14. Chris Lindsay, 15. Nathan Grimaldi, 21. Luke Sauer (25. Oliver Randazzo 81’), 91. Jonty Busch
Subs not used: 22. Jacob Cremen-Cowan, 26. Jake Garner
Yellow Cards: Nathan Grimaldi 29’, Jesse Photi 90+2’
Blacktown City: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien (14. Caleb Jackson-Brown 68’), 10. Mario Shabow (6. Matthew Lewis 88’), 12. Tyren Burnie, 15. Ignacio Corral (22. Carlos De Oliviera 88’), 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 19. Adam Berry, 21. Charles Mendy (9. Reuben Awaritefe 75’)
Subs not used: 16. Ben Berry, 20. Cayden Henderson
3 – Grant Lynch (BC)
2 – Nathan Grimaldi (SS)
1 – Mario Shabow (BC)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock